Nancy, Im a new runner who is hoping to lose weight but Im not having much success. Im fighting bad cravings for sweets and end up eating The Jellybean Diet. Help!
The jellybean diet ... sounds to me like you are getting too hungry. That is, craving sweets means you have gotten too hungry and your body is screaming for quick energy. The solution is to prevent hunger by eating more quality food at breakfast and lunch. Target about 500 calories at each of those two meals, and youll find you feel better, have more energy, run better, are in a better mood throughout the day, are more productive, and are not hankering for jelly beans in the afternoon.
If you want to lose undesired body fat, your goal should be to fuel adequately during the day, and then eat a little less at the end of the day. The best time to lose weight is when you are sleeping, not when you are trying to run and function during the day.
If you want some more specific guidance on how to lose weight and have energy to exercise, I recommend my Food Guide for New Runners: Getting It Right the First Time. You might find helpful the strong section on weight, sweets cravings, and dieting. Or better yet, meet with a sports dietitian for personalized advice. You can find a local RD by using the referral network at
I am a novice runner and I got woken at 3:00 a.m. with muscle cramps in my calves. How can I avoid these in the future?
While some people think muscle cramps are due to low potassium and recommend eating potassium-rich bananas as the solution, I question if that is the only answer. Certainly, eating bananas is always a good idea. But I doubt if the muscle cramp is due to low potassium. That would require an incredible amount of sweat loss. Novice runners usually cannot exercise long enough to deplete themselves of potassium.
Here's how a few popular sports foods compare in potassium content:
Potential potassium loss in a two hour workout: 300 to 800 mg
Potassium in 8 ounces of Gatorade: 30 mg
Potassium in one medium banana: 450 mg
Potassium in 8 ounces of orange juice: 475 mg.
Potassium in 8 ounces yogurt: 520 mg.
You might want to try:
-- stretching more after you exercise.
-- drinking enough fluids so you are urinating every two to four hours of the daytime (a sign you are well hydrated). \
-- consuming at least two to three cups of milk or yogurt a day. (That's the amount you need to get adequate calcium for your bones, to say nothing of for your muscles.)
Some people anecdotally report calcium helps resolve muscle cramps.
In comparison to red meat, which is among the best sources of iron, spinach is a fair source of iron. The recommended daily intake for iron is 8 milligrams for men and 18 milligrams for women. A half-cup serving of cooked spinach contains about 2 milligrams of iron. Because cooking has minimal effect upon the iron content in spinach, the equivalent amount of uncooked spinach offers the same amount of iron. (That is, you need to eat about 2 cups of raw spinach to equate to 1/2 cup of cooked spinach)
Due to the presence of oxylates (organic acids that naturally occur in foods), the iron in both raw and cooked spinach tends to be poorly absorbed by the body. However, if you eat spinach with some type of animal protein, such as putting turkey in a spinach salad or serving cooked spinach along with a chicken dinner, your body can better absorb the iron.
To boost your iron intake, I also recommend you eat a source of vitamin C at each meal, such as
-drink orange juice with breakfast
-adding tomato slices to your lunch-time sandwich
-and enjoying broccoli with dinner.
Cooking in a cast iron skillet can also boost your iron intake--especially if you cook an acidic food, such as tomato sauce, in the skillet. Another option is to choose iron-enriched breakfast cereals, such as Wheaties. Non-meat eaters have many ways to consume adequate iron, and reduce their risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
Perhaps more remarkable than its iron content (of which only 3% is absorbable), spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and several other nutrients that are an important part of your sports diet. Pop-eye was strong to the finish for several reasons--the least of which was the iron in spinach! Yet, I do encourage you to keep eating your spinach for the other nutrients is contains.
I received an email from a new mom who is getting back into shape after having had her baby. She is now lifting weights, doing sit-ups, crunches, and some squats, and jogging on the treadmill. After her first day of exercise, she reported she felt every muscle in her body! Poor woman; I think she didnt know the soreness would be even worse on the second day, and then recovery would set in and the muscle soreness would start to dissipate.
One trick to reducing muscle soreness is to refuel right after the workout with a carb-protein combination, such as a yogurt, glass of chocolate milk, sandwich, bowl of cereal with milk, etc. The carbs refuel and the protein helps heal.
In fact, eating a carb-protein combo before you exercise is also a good idea, because that pre-exercise snack gets digested and is ready and waiting to get used when the exercise stops. So if plan to do a hard work out first thing in the morning, plan to grab a yogurt on your way to the gym, and then refuel with some cereal and milk when you return--hopefully within a half hour after the exercise ends. The sooner you refuel, the happier your muscles will be.